Battle for the Soul of Benue State

By Msugh Ityokura

After a lull on the political turf in Benue State, build-up to the governorship election in the state appears to throw up fresh issues on who succeeds the incumbent, Gabriel Suswam. MSUGH ITYOKURA, takes a look at the number of governorship aspirants the state parades and the body language of the electorate.

WITH the adoption of President Goodluck Jonathan, as the sole candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, for the forth coming presidential poll,the stage is now set for the battle for other elective positions across the states of the federation.

This is likely to be more intense in states where the governors will be leaving office having served the constitutional requirement of eight years. In most cases, the incumbent governor is likely to show interest on who succeeds him. In Benue State, this has already started generating ripples among stakeholders who are bent on ensuring that only the electorate will decide who occupies the Government House on May 29, 2015.

However, the issues around who succeeds Suswam is not about imposition of candidate, but the age old history of zoning which derived its basis on the traditional mantra of the Tiv people which is “ya na angbian” meaning, eat and give your brother.

This principle resonates now more than ever, as the three senatorial zones in the state are all out clamouring for their rightful turn to govern the state after Suswam’s eight year tenure in the saddle.

Suswam hails from the Sankera axis, comprising Katsina/Ala, Ukum and his home council, Logo in the state’s North East senatorial district following which power is expected to return to the state’s North West senatorial district otherwise known as zone “B”. But this has not gone down well with people from Idoma ethnic extraction.

The argument of the Idoma is that the two other zones of the Tiv people have had their fair share of the power deal and as such it is only fair that the southern senatorial zone, which is currently represented by senate President, David Mark, should have a shot at the plum governorship position. This position clearly explains the large number aspirants from the zone.

But apart from a former Minister of State, Niger Delta, Sam Ode, a former Medical Mirector of the Federal Medical Centre, Makurdi, Matthias Oyigeya and the Deputy Governor, Stephen Lawani, other contenders from the zone appear not too strong in terms of following in the state. It is believed that some of them are gunning for the various appointive positions both at the state and federal levels after elections.

Following the last electoral records in 2011, the number of eligible voters from Gboko local council, which is the traditional headquarters of the Tiv people, Katsina/Ala and Ukum out- numbered that of the seven local councils in Idoma land, a factor which has continued to impede their chances in the past.

It is on this note that there are fears in some quarters that except Apa State is created, the possibility of producing a governor is very slim, hence the seeming conclusion by stakeholders in the zone to field Sam Ode as a running mate to any PDP standard bearer in the next poll.

Be that as it may, Jerchira Federal Constituency in the North East zone otherwise known as zone “A” is advancing an argument based on the sharing formula of the Tiv people with references to past events. The same political scenario which played out during the political leadership of the late Senator J.S Tarkaa may play out in the state.

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